So I was watching "19 Kids and Counting," and they were showing the littlest Duggar, Josie, who is a preemie, and at 4 months was still only like 4 lbs. My daughter was definitely not a preemie, but the episode still reminded me of the time that my own wee one spent in the NICU.
The girl next to my little one was a preemie, still not even 5 lbs., and had been there for over a month. Her parents were in there visiting her often, and they always seemed so calm and peaceful, holding their baby and enjoying her. Meanwhile, I was there with my giant baby, tired and stressed out and not really knowing what was going on. How is it that these people seemed so relaxed when their baby was probably in danger when first born just because she was so tiny?
My daughter was 8 lb. 12.8 oz. when born. Labor was short and relatively painless, I didn't even get painkillers. I walked into the hospital around 11:30 AM and said, "I think maybe my water broke," and they seemed to think I was mistaken given the lack of soaking wetness or painful contractions, but sure enough, they checked and I was already to 5cm and having contractions every 1.5 to 2 minutes. I didn't feel a thing. It was then that I learned that I had Strep B. "Why didn't you tell us so we could get you hooked up to the antibiotics?" Nobody ever told me!
I got hooked up to the IV, was up to 10cm by 3 PM and at 6:12 PM, my little chubby troublemaker arrived. Easy peasy. I watched a little while they took her and cleaned her off and weighed her and all that. My husband ran around the room to take pictures and see his little princess. After what seemed like forever but was probably only a few minutes, they handed me a chilled out little bundle of chubbiness. Then, just as quickly as they let me see her, they told me she was breathing funny and were taking her to the NICU for some oxygen. It was probably just stress from the birth, they told me. My husband didn't even get to hold her.
They told me I could go see her around 2 AM, but I was so exhausted, weak from loss of blood, and in pain from them coming in every few hours to push on my belly that I waited until morning to go see her. It was then that they told me she needed to be on antibiotics for a day because her white blood cell count was elevated. She did go off of the oxygen that day though.
That one day on antibiotics? That turned into 2 days.
That turned into 3 days.
That turned into a week.
They just wanted to make sure she didn't develop an infection, they said. Other than that, they didn't really tell us anything. There was no definite diagnosis that anyone gave us. I did see on her chart during a recent appointment "suspected sepsis." That basically means infection. Whether I gave her my Strep B or she caught something else, I may never know.
I was tired, still weak for a few days, and went home without a baby. Luckily, the hospital was right down the street. I visited her 2-4 times a day. My husband visited when he could, but had to go back to work after a week, so didn't even get to see her at home before he went back to work.
She was the funniest baby in the NICU. She was about twice the size of any of the other babies in there. They had trouble finding a suit to fit her. She was in size 1 diapers when she was 1 day old, so we had a lot of newborn diapers to return. She was able to hold her head up the day she was born, and she liked to see what was going on all around her. She also liked to mess up the sensors she was hooked up to and set her alarms off so the nurses would come running over. One day, we heard the loudest gas noise coming from a baby in the NICU, and we were outside the door. Guess whose baby that was? :)
I'd sit there in the NICU for a 1/2 hour or hour at a time, feeding her, changing her, or just watching her sleep. The nurses put little black and white patterns on the sides of her basinette, and she was enthralled. She would just stare and stare at the patterns, so much that we took them home with us and put them where she could see them at home. We brought in a little pink stuffed bunny so she would have something from home, and little ducky outfits so she would have something to wear that fit. She was completely in love with her binky too.
After that week, we were told to return to the hospital for a night of "Step Down," where they could make sure we could take care of our "special" baby, because often NICU babies need extra care. We had to take classes on bathing her and baby CPR. We had to chart every time we fed her, how much we fed her, and every time she'd pee or poop on a little chart. And once again, one night didn't really mean 1 night. She was losing weight (a whopping 4 oz. lost on the day we took her home), and she was spitting up almost projectile-like and green. I'm not sure how they didn't notice that in the week she was in NICU, but it was determined that the formula was the problem and they switched her. It wasn't until the 3rd day back there that we were allowed to take her home. Even then, we had to meet with a counselor about our feelings (NICU is stressful) and they told us a nurse had to come check on us EVERY DAY to make sure baby was good and we were taking care of her well. Thankfully, the nurse only came 2 or 3 times before it was determined that we would be just fine.
We probably did have about the easiest time in the NICU anyone could have. And it was still really hard. It didn't really occur to me after a pretty uneventful pregnancy that I wouldn't get to take my baby home with me. I went to pick up a few needed baby things from work when she was 2 days old and people were swarming me asking why I was in there with no big belly and no baby. I had one picture to show them, of her hooked up to oxygen and sensors. I probably got a lot more sleep than most new moms and I was still exhausted. I hated going into the NICU, even though everyone there was nice and my baby certainly looked healthy enough. I hated leaving just as much.
We took her home when she was 9 days old, and she's going to be 2 in the fall. We are fortunate in that there are no lasting problems. She's pretty much the perfect toddler, right on track physically and mentally. She's got a big head of curly hair and a big toddler attitude. The poor Duggars still have their baby (born last December for anyone who hasn't seen the show) in the NICU, and they don't know when they can take her home. I just hope that for them this time next year, they also have a healthy, active, normal, awesome toddler.
Here is my little one when she was in the NICU, still hooked up to oxygen, IV, and sensors. Notice how chubby she is!